The Guardian attacked celebrity nepotism this weekend, training its sights on eighteen-year-old Brooklyn Beckham for the crime of securing a deal to author a coffee table photography book. You’d never find nepotism on Fleet Street, of course, where advancement is solely based on merit. Especially at the Guardian, where until recently former editor Alan Rusbridger had not only his wife but also his daughter writing for the paper at the same time. Comment writer Lindsay Mackie (AKA Mrs Rusbridger) still pens the odd piece under the new regime; daughter Bella Mackie (AKA Miss Rusbridger) started out as the ‘Community Editor’ for Comment Is Free and is now a senior editor at VICE. If only his dad worked there Brooklyn could be the Guardian’s football reporter…
Yesterday the Scott Trust, owners of the Guardian, met to discuss whether Alan Rusbridger would take over as chair as agreed two years ago. The Trust was split on whether this should still happen – current editor Kath Viner and GMG chief exec David Pemsel particularly opposed Rusbridger’s return amid staff outcry and swingeing cuts. Today Rusbridger has confirmed he is out. Coup successful…
Read his email in full:
Dear former colleagues
I wanted to let you know I will not be returning to Chair the Scott Trust later this year. Many of you will know what the Scott Trust has meant to me and for Guardian journalism. It is so unique that not many people – externally, or, sometimes, even internally – truly appreciate the crucial role it has had over many years in nurturing, resourcing and protecting what we do. When, in late 2014, the Scott Trust appointed me to succeed Liz as chair I was beyond honoured. But much has changed in the year since I stepped down. All newspapers – and many media organisations beyond – have been battered by turbulent and economic forces that were difficult to foresee last summer.
On my appointment to the Scott Trust job in November 2014 the Chair of GMG, Neil Berkett, was kind enough to say publicly : “Alan has set the standard for journalistic leadership in the digital age. His appointment to lead The Scott Trust coincides with rapidly rising readership, continued innovation and secure finances at the Guardian. His successor will inherit a global media organisation in very strong health and with clear prospects for further growth.” The difference between that assessment and the way things look now is a measure of how much the world has changed. I have been on the Trust long enough to understand its role.
We all currently do our journalism in the teeth of a force 12 digital hurricane. It is surely obvious to anyone that changed circumstances will demand dramatically changed solutions. Kath and David clearly believe they would like to plot a route into the future with a new chair and I understand their reasoning. I have a fantastically interesting new life in Oxford. I will miss you all. You have been the most wonderful colleagues and we achieved really amazing things together. I continue to read with immense admiration the journalism the Guardian and Observer produce. It’s all the more enjoyable for having played no part in it.
Thanks to all of you who have quietly emailed support in the past few weeks. And very best wishes to all as you negotiate the storms currently affecting pretty much everyone in our industry. We will come through….
In GQ, Michael Wolff reveals Alan Rusbridger’s view of the Guardian:
“For more than a decade Rusbridger has held [the] assumption that the Guardian, that most British of British left-wing institutions, was finished in the UK… Rusbridger is said to be unwavering in his belief… the Guardian’s UK business is dying… the Guardian is either a thing of the past or on a suicide mission.”
The Guardian’s Ed Snowden coverage in 2014 led to a series of high-profile awards, notably a Pulitzer Prize and an Emmy. So what on earth was this gong doing on sale in a Richmond Oxfam?
Guido dispatched a roving reporter to find out…
Apparently an unidentified benefactor turned up at the Oxfam on Friday afternoon and handed the Pulitzer in. It was quickly snapped up for a fiver by a mysterious telephone bidder just before the store closed, though Guido managed to get his hands on the Guardian‘s Emmy for just £4.99.
The prizes were most likely wall hangings for senior journalist’s offices. Guido’s new intern has only been here a week and he’s already landed an Emmy…
Rusbridger was banged out of the building by his staff last week. His successor is Katharine Viner:
He wrote his own obituary for his editorship in his last paper, it seems only right that the Guardian’s fiercest critics should have a look back as well.
Rusbridger bet big on digital; The Times, Telegraph and cash-starved Indy don’t really match The Guardian in the quality of their digital offer. Rusbridger decided on digital first before the other papers – some of which still hold back the best stories for the second edition to serve yesterday’s news in tomorrow’s papers – which doesn’t really cut it in the digital age. The second big bet was on a “free-to-air” model with no internet paywall. The Mail and The Guardian are both close to making this work financially, the jury is still out as to if the greater scale of advertising will trump paywall subscriptions. The Guardian’s mobile app is quite simply way ahead of any other British newspaper’s app.
Rusbridger maintained the liberal traditions of the paper, it is safe to say the editorial values of the Guardian and Guido clash. We’re believers in the liberating power and prowess of capitalism in raising living standards for all. They’re hand-wringing worriers about social justice who want to tax us into equality. So much for economics as politics by other means. However we’re admirers of the tenacity with which Rusbridger pursued some stories – phone hacking was mostly indefensible, the Snowden revelations were in the public interest, as were the Wikileaks revelations – which they handled well in the circumstances.
Rusbridger’s Guardian lost money, this along with their shifty offshore assets tax hypocrisy was a constant theme of ours for years. Guido believes that profit is the best guarantor of independence. A multiplicity of revenue streams means never being so dependent that you are compromised. The Guardian’s business model has profit as a secondary consideration, having succeeded in creating a massive tax efficient endowment from selling Auto Trader. If they don’t overspend too much that will last them for many decades yet and, even if they do, Liz Forgan told Guido that she could see a few billionaires endowing their brand of liberal journalism in perpetuity.
On balance as a news brand Rusbridger’s Guardian is a triumph, as a business less so. However, to be fair, who in the newspaper business has been more successful?
Two anecdotes: Guido was once cornered at an awards ceremony by Rusbridger’s two daughters, they physically pinned him to a pillar and berated him for an age – in no uncertain terms – for being sexist and, far more importantly, mean to their father. On recounting this story to Alan he literally beamed with fatherly pride.
Some years before that, at a think-tank lunch, Rusbridger was the guest speaker and positively glared at Guido throughout his talk on the difficulties of keeping a newspaper viable in the dawning digital age. When it came for questions he seized the moment to have a go back at Guido. Pointing his finger, he sneered “you’d probably be glad to see us go under, wouldn’t you, well?” At this point Guido turned to the chairman of the lunch: “This is under Chatham House rules, isn’t it? None of us can report who says what?” The chairman nodded. Guido turned back to Rusbridger, “Whenever I am abroad on holiday it is the paper I choose to buy for the breadth and depth of coverage. You edit one of the greatest papers in the world.” Deflated, Alan slumped back in his chair with a bemused grin…
So, farewell then Alan Rusbridger, stepping down today after 20 years as editor of the Guardian.
Since Rusbridger took the helm in 1995, Guardian Media Group has declared operating costs of £4,495,292,000 for their national newspaper subsidiary.
Around £230 million-a-year in the later years.
What you might call big cheque book journalism…
MediaGuardian were scooped to the departure of their own paper’s deputy editor by Politico on Friday. Seen as the heir apparent to Alan Rusbridger for the editorship, Janine Gibson was overlooked and is now off. Rusbridger finally gets round to emailing staff:
Sorry that we got scooped on this, but no-one was really anticipating rival breaking news late on the Friday of a bank holiday.
Janine Gibson has, after much thought, decided to move on from the Guardian.
As most of you know, Janine’s been with us for 17 years, after joining as a refugee from the Independent. As media editor she launched the MediaGuardian website and was then appointed G3 editor before becoming editor of the Guardian website in 2008 and then a deputy editor.
Janine launched Guardian US in 2011, at a time when we had not quite found our feet or purpose in the States. She had a clear sense of where the Guardian should be going and what it should be in America. Guardian US began with 6 employees and 7m users, and grew in 3 years to 50+ staff and tripled its audience. And, of course, she edited the Snowden story out of New York in a way that was assured, well-judged and brave. The Snowden story probably won more awards than any story since Watergate – and much of that was down to Janine’s sure touch.
That record – plus her digital instincts – made Janine a high profile figure in US journalism, and it was no surprise when the NYT tried to poach her to be their deputy editor early last year. At that point we managed to keep her, with the (thankless!) task of returning to London to help reorganise desks and production as well as edit the digital site.
She’s been a brilliantly talented and lovely colleague, and we wish her so well in whatever she does next.
Gibson’s leaving will once again fuel speculation that the New York Times’ board is considering setting up a London operation as revenge for the Guardian attempting to muscle in on their turf stateside. Janine ran Guardian US until last year and will have impressed editing the Snowden story. The news got a suspiciously kind write up in the NYT over the weekend…
Saudi Arabia have come out in support of the Guardian’s campaign to keep fossil fuels in the ground:
The hated, oppressive regime which opposes everything our country holds dear, joins forces with Saudi Arabia…
Alan Rusbridger is very coy about whether the Guardian makes money from fossil fuel companies, despite campaigning for the Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation to divest their investments from them. In a recent Q&A, Rusbridger wriggled around the straightforward “Will The Guardian refuse advertising from fosil fuel companies?” question, claiming that his commercial director “didn’t think we took vast sums from fossil fuel companies.”
Funny, then, that the coal mining company Anglo American both sponsors the Guardian’s “social impact hub” and pays for a whole “partner zone” worth of “advertisement features” within the Guardian’s “sustainable business” section.
Anglo American is one of the fossil fuel companies in which the Gates Foundations invests…
Via his Instagram:
“So I took this unremarkable picture on Hampstead Heath this morning while being photographed by@davidlevene. The minute speck in the middle of the picture became very upset… and 10 minutes I was being cautioned by a police officer on behalf of @davidlevene for his illegal use of a tripod. Unlike some editors I believe in taking the rap when caught red-handed”
Free the Islington one!
UPDATE: Rusbridger speaks.
Theresa May’s least favourite pressure group, Big Brother Watch, is five years old today. As the government increases spying on us in the name of security the need for civil libertarians to keep a watchful eye on the those who now have the technology to listen and monitor our every move is greater than ever.
Not many organisations unite the likes of David Davis and Alan Rusbridger in support…
UPDATE: The party in Paul Judge’s penthouse panoramic view overlooking the headquarters of MI6 and MI5 was one of those rare events where the libertarian left and right were united. Alan Rusbridger eulogised Ed Snowden and told supporters that politicians were understandably terrified that an atrocity would happen on their watch. Pointing out that after the Sony hacking politicians called for tougher encyrption, than after the Charlie Hebdo attack the same politicians called for softer encryption standards. David Davis, after pointing out that the Guardian was the only paper standing up for civil liberties, warned that although neither the US or UK we’re a police state, all the technology is in place to create one.
This is to let you know that next summer I will be stepping down as editor-in-chief of the Guardian before succeeding Liz Forgan as Chair of The Scott Trust when she reaches the end of her term in 2016.
In February I’ll have been editor for 20 years. It’s been quite an extraordinary period in the life of the Guardian. In February 1995 newspaper websites were, if they existed at all, exotic things: we were still four years off launching Guardian Unlimited. Since 1999 we’ve grown to overtake all others to become the most-read serious English language digital newspaper in the world.
When I assumed the editorship in 1995, the senior team at the Guardian was debating whether we should switch to using colour photography in the paper. (There were quite a few distinguished voices believing black and white was the proper métier for news.) Today we are doing our journalism in words, (colour!) pictures, video, data, animation, audio; on mobile and other platforms and in social … and every possible combination of the above.
The past two decades have been marked out by wonderful Guardian writing, photography, innovation and editing. There have been gruelling court battles, dogged campaigns and tough investigations. The Guardian – always the outsider – has won a global reputation for its willingness to fight for the right causes. We have strong future leaders in place with unparalleled news and digital experience. We have built up – and banked – a considerable financial endowment to secure future innovation and build on our quality journalism. The GMG Board is prepared to invest significantly in what we do because of the extraordinarily strong global position for which we (editorial, commercial and digital together) have fought and won.
Each editor is told – this is literally the only instruction – to carry the Guardian on “as heretofore”. That means understanding the spirit, culture and purpose of the paper and interpreting it for the present. All that is only possible because of the unique Scott Trust, set up in 1936 to ensure the Guardian survives in perpetuity.
Since 1936 the Trust has always appointed a chair from within – in every case a member of the Scott family or a former Guardian journalist or editor. I’ve felt very lucky to have Hugo Young and Liz Forgan beside me and/or guarding my back. The Trust is one of the most important liberal institutions in the world and I was very honoured to be asked to succeed Liz as Chair when she steps down in 2016.
But the best thing about working here – the thing I’ll miss most – are my colleagues. We are a team and the strongest of communities – one which includes our readers. The community includes people from all areas, in and outside editorial. The Guardian and The Observer are bursting with extraordinarily bright, talented, brave, kind, knowledgeable, resourceful, imaginative, thoughtful and delightful people. I know our journalism – and our “perpetuity” – will be in the best possible hands.
I am currently visiting the Guardian Australia team in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra – another amazing Guardian success story – but I will be back in Kings Place on Monday and will talk to you then.
- Janine Gibson – Seen as the heiress apparent, this year Janine came home from the US to be deputy editor and editor-in-chief of the Guardian website
- Katharine Viner – Replaced Gibson as editor of Guardian US, might she leapfrog her predecessor?
- Emily Wilson – Former UK network editor of the website, now she is Down Under having taken over from Viner.
- Dan Sabbagh – 94/1
- Amol Rajan – Time for a person of colour?
- James Ball – Has written every story of significance in the Guardian for the last 10 years, or so he claims.
- Edward Snowden – You can run a paper from Skype, right?
- Frank Fisher – Right-wing legend who writes most of Comment is Free (in the comments).
- Russell Brand – King of the C U Next Tuesdays.
- Jonathan Freedland – Sound on Palestine.
- Ian Katz – Return of the Prince from the Guardian’s broadcasting arm.
Surely it’s time for the Guardian to have their first non-private school educated editor?
Camped outside celebrity hangout Chiltern Firehouse, Dave and SamCam’s fav in Marylebone for date night, the snappers spotted Nigella Lawson with an scruffy looking lunch partner. But who could this “Harry Potter look-a-like” be?
[…] Read the rest
“Alan, her lunchtime companion, wore a crumpled navy suit and a blue shirt which hung to his curves.
Hotly tipped by MediaGuido in the past, Janine Gibson is coming home from the US to be deputy editor of Guardian News & Media and editor-in-chief of the Guardian website. Cementing her position as the heir apparent to Alan Rusbridger. Fair play to her for celebrating her good news appropriately:
Gibson’s main rival to the job Katharine Viner replaces Gibson as US editor, leaving her position in Australia.[…] Read the rest
The Guardian NUJ chapel has sent a cute message of support to Alan Rusbridger ahead of his select committee showdown this afternoon. Approved by a committee of twelve, on behalf of all 500 odd Guardian journalists, of course.
[…] Read the rest
“Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger is due to appear before the House of Commons home affairs select committee tomorrow to answer questions about our publication of the NSA and GCHQ surveillance revelations leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Rusbridger’s broadband poll tax was laughed all the way out of Guardian HQ when it was floated through David Leigh last month, the family silver is being sold off and up to seventy hacks face the sack. Now media analysts are reporting that, for the first time, the paper’s bosses are seriously considering ditching the print edition altogether in favour of an all-digital operation.[…] Read the rest